Independence to vote on sales tax used for road repairs - KCTV5

Independence to vote on sales tax used for road repairs

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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

Signs are popping up around Independence, Missouri ahead of Tuesday’s vote on the sales tax that improves the city’s streets.

A “yes” vote will continue the perpetual sales tax that goes towards improving the city streets.

The plan has been in use since 1998 and has brought in millions of dollars that can be used to match federal funds for street work.

According to Independence Mayor Eileen Weir, residents have consistently said that street maintenance is a top priority whenever the city has conducted surveys about what is most important to residents. 

Because of that, the city has spent years repaving roads, something Weir said avoids road disrepair.

“Instead of saying, you know, we’re going to do the worst roads and get them up to standards,” Weir said, “we can really do a maintenance program where we grade each road and we never let it get below a certain level before we go in and do those re-pavements.”

Although the tax is highly approved in general, there are some critics. 

"I think there may be some sort of feeling that this tax isn't important, that this work would be getting done anyway," Weir said, "but it really is because of this tax that we're able to do these things."

From 2009 to 2016, more than $62 million was raised through the street sales tax program.

The money was put to use in areas such as Truman and 78th, where there is a road relocation taking place. The city was able to put in a little more than a million dollars and also use Surface Transportation Program federal funds.

The sales tax is currently in place through 2019. If the measure is approved, it would stay in place until a vote until a vote is made to repeal it. 

The city believes about $25 million will be brought in from 2017 until 2019.

"It's always been renewed at a very high percentage, but I do think there's sometimes a sense of taking it for granted," Weir said. "People forget what things were like before we had this tax. It's been such a long time ago." 

Weir said that if the tax were to go away, they would need to figure out an alternative quickly. 

"If the tax, for some reason, went away entirely, that is about an $8 million impact to the city of Independence and we would have to make some significant changes to figure out how to fill that gap," Weir said.

“Unless there’s some new mode of transportation, our streets are going to be forever," said Independence resident Brent Schondelmeyer. "There needs to be some effort to maintain them. One could drive down I-70 and understand what happens when you don’t maintain an interstate or highway.”

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